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The Feast of Seven Fishes


Dr. Teeth

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I was surprised there wasn’t already a thread on the subject.  This is my favorite day every year.  Mrs Dr Teeth stopped me from starting a thread about it in February.  I tried to start this thread a number of times with a long post about our family tradition, but I keep abandoning it mid effort and at this point I just wanted to get the thread started.

 

For those who cook the seven fishes:

1) What is your tradition?

2) What’s the structure of the dinner (courses, buffet vs sit down)?

3) What has to be there every year; and most importantly 

4) What are you cooking?

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We've done both buffet and sit down.  I prefer sit-down in general, but it can be a bigger PITA.

 

Apps can use up a few of t he 7.

 

Worth remembering that worcestershire is fish-derived. A bloody Mary with bonito flakes takes care of two fishes.

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My aunt & uncle used to do a grand sit down menu: sushi in the kitchen, then spaghetti with clams and spaghetti with calamari, then a main of fried shrimp, crab cakes, maybe sauteed shrimp, some sort of white fish, eels, salmon or swordfish (or both!) and bacala (salted cod) salad. Then fruit & chestnuts and THEN pastries and other desserts. The joke was that there had to be a dessert per person. It was kind of ridiculous. They moved, so that tradition ended. We took it one year and kept it super simple: just linguini with scallops and fried fish. We've gone to my parents a few years and it was similarly simple. We've also started going out and that's what we'll do this year. Italian restaurant so those of us who want our fish will get it and the rest can get something else. 

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Joanna G. Hurley

"Civilization means food and literature all round." -Aldous Huxley

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When I was a kid, my friend Frank’s parents always had a big Christmas Eve party, and their kids friends were invited along with his whole extended family. Just so you have an idea, it was Frank, his father Frank Sr., brothers, Richie, Tony, Sal. Cousins Tony, Richie, Apolonia, and on and on.

 

I distinctly remember scungilli, calamari, some shrimp dishes, fried flounder or some such type of fish (it was Long Island, after all), clams, mussels, baccala.  And lasagna, turkey, etc.  

 

I also remember the men, after all the eating was done, playing cards and smoking those little crooked cigars.

Edited by weinoo (log)
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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10 minutes ago, weinoo said:

When I was a kid, my friend Frank’s parents always had a big Christmas Eve party, and their kids friends were invited along with his whole extended family. Just so you have an idea, it was Frank, his father Frank Sr., brothers, Richie, Tony, Sal. Cousins Tony, Richie, Apolonia, and on and on.

 

I distinctly remember scungilli, calamari, some shrimp dishes, fried flounder or some such type of fish (it was Long Island, after all), clams, mussels, baccala.  And lasagna, turkey, etc.  

 

I also remember the men, after all the eating was done, playing cards and smoking those little crooked cigars.

Sounds like a fabulous party. And then on xmas day you had lox and bagels for breakfast and went out for Chinese later?That was our upper west side xmas day.

 

Tell me, are scungilli sold in markets? My crazy dad used to gross us out by eating them raw when he found them on the beach. Yes, Long Island. Ewww, Daaad!

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Not part of my more eastern euro culture. Fish?  But I have to laugh when I see scungilli mentioned. For years my mind went to scalone that a San Francisco raised Italian project mamager told me about learned from his fishermen relatives. I finally looked up the snail. Just a bit different though shells are involved

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I'd just make bouillabaisse and get it all over in one swell soup.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

..... one swell soup....

We definitely need a groan emoji

👍

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Be kind first.

Be nice.

(If you don't know the difference then you need to do some research)

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My nephew's wife Jenny  has as Italian father who is an  immunologist. Jenny's covid bonafides include the fact that when she was little she tagged along with her dad to a conference in Florida and they went sailing with Fauci!  I've always swooned when she describes her dad's Feast of the Seven Fishes. I believe there was often Scungilli and always eel, but she rattled off the menu so quickly I don't remember the rest. Due to my own Dad's inane idea of having fun with children, my ears can hear the word "Scungilli" from three thousand miles away. 

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23 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

always eel

 

Now I remember something else!! I worked in the fish and meat departments of one of our local groceries when I was in high school, before I got promoted to the deli. This was when there were actually butchers in those places, as well as the fishmonger.  Leading up to Christmas/New Year's, we would get live eels in. Talk about a pain in the ass to try and dispatch and skin.  Nails and pliers were involved.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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24 minutes ago, weinoo said:

 

Now I remember something else!! I worked in the fish and meat departments of one of our local groceries when I was in high school, before I got promoted to the deli. This was when there were actually butchers in those places, as well as the fishmonger.  Leading up to Christmas/New Year's, we would get live eels in. Talk about a pain in the ass to try and dispatch and skin.  Nails and pliers were involved.

Ha! There is a Frasier episode where the brothers open a restaurant and Niles is afraid of the eel. Daphne grabs it and whacks it against the counter. https://www.google.com/search?q=frasier+episode+restaurant+eel&

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35 minutes ago, weinoo said:

 

Now I remember something else!! I worked in the fish and meat departments of one of our local groceries when I was in high school, before I got promoted to the deli. This was when there were actually butchers in those places, as well as the fishmonger.  Leading up to Christmas/New Year's, we would get live eels in. Talk about a pain in the ass to try and dispatch and skin.  Nails and pliers were involved.

 

Even worse if you catch one fishing.

Try to take out the hook and they wrap themselves around your arm

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59 minutes ago, weinoo said:

Talk about a pain in the ass to try and dispatch and skin. 


I’ve seen them doing that in Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo. Exactly one nail was involved, and it took about 2 seconds to poke the eels head onto the nail and skin the unfortunate critter after being taken out of a bucket and before before it was thrown into another bucket. But buckets were full of wiggling eels, just one bucket was skinless …

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6 minutes ago, Margaret Pilgrim said:

An alAn all time favorite of mine.  An all time favorite of mine:   

 

My French speaking husband will find this hilarious. Aside from Japanese restaurants I've only eaten eel once; A rather reclusive fisherman and eeler who has a beach house where my husband's family has theirs once gave us a peeled and prepped one (salt water). My MIL, who was a dreadful cook, managed to simply sauté it in butter and it was delicious. The most eels I've ever seen in one place was the Rialto market in Venice. Live baby eels in barrel after barrel, bought by the fistful, not by me. The baby animal thing seemed to be very big in Venice. We did order those teensy crabs at a restaurant. Really good.

 

So back to eels. There is a book called "The Book of Eels" which has more information than I would ever want. The New Yorker published an excerpt and could barely get through it. But the author does have grasp of his subject. 

 

 

 

 

fk

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7 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

My French speaking husband will find this hilarious.

While Maite is very funny, one needn't understand French to get the gist of and to howl at this.    I would never argue with her.    What ever she says, GOES with me!

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eGullet member #80.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Had really hoped to write more here, but the holiday season got away from me.

 

Briefly, I’m neither Italian nor Catholic.   This is for me about the food I love to cook and having holiday traditions my boys will remember, having been myself raised in a household where the Holiday season lasted for an hour.

 

I break the meal up (in my mind at least) into cold appetizers, hot appetizers and a sit down, always with a pasta, usually with another course as well.  The idea is that the appetizers last for a couple hours with the goal that folks are about 50% or more full before they sit down.

 

This year the menu is:

Smoked mussels and smoked oysters

Seafood salad (scungilli, shrimp, squid)

Cocktail shrimp

”Jewish bruschetta,” a Mrs Dr Teeth creation of smoked salmon, cream cheese and toasts

 

Baked stuffed clams

Crab stuffed mushroom caps (new this year, experimental, looking for an every year dish using crab - it’s a Maryland thing)

Grilled Octopus salad (a contribution from our guests)

 

Ceasar salad

Spaghetti with cannellini beans and escarole (no seafood a first for me but it’s a family favorite and what I’m feeling this year)

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On 12/7/2022 at 9:00 AM, Dr. Teeth said:

 I tried to start this thread a number of times with a long post about our family tradition, but I keep abandoning it mid effort and at this point I just wanted to get the thread started.

 

 

1 hour ago, Dr. Teeth said:

Had really hoped to write more here, but the holiday season got away from me.

 

Well, if you ever get the time, I'm sure we'd all love to hear more.  

 

Here's my story:

At one time, I had a roommate from an Italian American family in NY state that always made a big deal of the Seven Fishes.  One year, Tony's mother and brother came out to California for the holidays and his mom insisted on making a Fishes Feast.  I took her to Santa Monica Seafood, which was quite busy with everyone preparing for the holiday.  Dom DeLuise was ahead of us in line and Tony's mom was absolutely thrilled to meet him.  He was a gem chatting with her.  He admitted that he was only planning on 5 fishes that year.  She was appalled and spent most of the time in line suggesting additional options for him.  I think she nagged the poor guy into buying extra fish that he probably wasn't going to cook!   

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Great story @blue_dolphin Also a great fish market. I grew up with the DeLuca and Cigliano kids. When I had an Albertsons near me they sourced from them a does the local more upscale Bristol Farms - reliable beautiful seafood.

Edited by heidih (log)
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Growing up in an immigrant Lithuanian family, Christmas Eve was the worst meal of the year for us kids.  My grandmother's menu included marinated herring with raw onions; sardines in a strong mustard sauce; whiting baked until bone-dry, etc.   

 

When we got a bit older we had a mini-rebellion and my mother and aunt let us have spaghetti with meatless sauce on Christmas Eve.  

 

Years later when we had Xmas in Florida and my mother was in her late 80s, the meal was planned by my SIL's and myself and included shrimp, grouper, fresh snook and redfish caught off my brother's dock, etc.  

 

One year I wanted to make alligator; I told my mother it was considered seafood.  She didn't believe me, but relented nonetheless. 

 

Years later I read that the Archbishop of New Orleans agreed to allow alligator to be eaten during Lent.  I wasn't lying after all 😎

 

 

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